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The umbrella of sustainability in architecture

The umbrella of sustainability in architecture

By Arqtos. Graciela Pedemonte and Eduardo Yarke

Sustainable Development must integrate actions aimed at improving environmental, economic-technological and social problems and maintain the continuity of these actions. The concept of sustainability cuts across all human activities, we must strive for a sustainable society.


If Sustainable Development must integrate with the same degree of opportunity actions aimed at improving environmental, economic-technological and social problems and maintain the continuity of these actions in the medium and long term, and simultaneously, there is no possibility of sustainability in global development Without an important contribution from the Construction sector, with buildings that are more sustainable than the current ones, or from the Agriculture sector, with production systems that are more sustainable than the current ones or from the Transportation sector, with transportation systems that are more sustainable than the current ones, and so on, etc, etc. we are faced with a multidirectional mess of possibilities and initiatives that complicate and enrich any approach made to this statement and whatever the discipline in which it is applied.

We reiterate then that the complexity and multidirectionality of all this is not the heritage of any sector (for example, only of Architecture), but that a similar panorama is presented before the approach of greater sustainability in each of the disciplines in which we try analyze it. Furthermore, and this is essential, the concept of sustainability or sustainability is relative and only valid, within that relativity, when we compare what is proposed with what exists, what something would be or is intended to be, with what it is today (with current situation and KNOWLEDGE)

Verifying this reality in the field of agriculture, Dr. Humberto Tommasino (*) used the term "umbrella of sustainability" to metaphorically host any initiative aimed at achieving this relative objective. The same terms, with the same intentions, can be used and applied in the field of Architecture and Construction.

Furthermore, the primitive triangle that interconnected the environmental, the economic and the social to delimit the field of actions for better sustainability, must be integrated today with the ethical-political. Without this integration, any proposal is fallacious, as well as utopian. The concept of sustainability cuts across all human activities, we must strive for a sustainable society.

In its attempt to differentiate and identify, each initiative or area of ​​activity that has the objective of improving the current sustainability of buildings, can be shown as:

• Sustainable or Sustainable Architecture
• Bioenvironmental Architecture
• Bioclimatic architecture
• Solar Architecture
• Eco-Architecture
• Natural Architecture
• Green Architecture
• Green Building
• High Environmental Quality
• High Energy Efficiency
• Smart Buildings
• With Application of Renewable Energies
• With Application of Appropriate Technologies
• With Analysis of the Life Cycle of Materials and Systems
• With New Materials
• With Recycled or Recyclable Materials
• With Efficient Resource Management (water, energy, waste)
• With Participatory Management
• Sustainable self-construction
• Eco-villas
• Etc etc


Given the tangle of initiatives and labels, it is difficult to specify, in some cases, what is the difference that may exist in the approach to this issue between one definition or another; but not everything is the same in this long and incomplete list and thus we can confirm the existence of a variable conceptual continuum between positions that rely more on scientific research (for example) versus others that value practical execution (something like with hands in the dough) or between those that address partial aspects (energy efficiency) to those that propose a more integrative approach.

However, it is possible to identify which are the opposites of this long list of options and thus we come to determine that there are positions that are born and are valued in the "market", that aspire to be a "brand", that propose exclusive solutions and therefore They are elitist and strongly relying on (sometimes sophisticated) technological resources. Its promoters are usually very active, they carry out an effective Marketing task and their objective is to achieve a portion of the Real Estate Market aimed at the sectors with greater purchasing power with environmental sensitivity. In this group we can find some of the solutions called Green Buildings, Green Buildings, Smart Buildings or High Environmental Quality, etc.

On the other hand, there are construction proposals aimed at social sectors of low economic level and strong ecological awareness, using very simple technologies (often rescued from traditional construction systems, with the use of materials and local knowledge) that are oriented towards the improvement of habitat conditions, which move outside the market or on its periphery and which have a very low profile. There are examples of this action among those who practice Eco-Architecture or Natural Architecture, those who carry out Participatory Management or Sustainable Self-Construction, Ecovillas, etc. although also under these labels solutions not committed to sustainability in a broader sense are labeled.

It could be said that this polarity represents the gap between the most favored and the least favored sectors, but in reality social inequality is even wider and extends to both sides of these proposals, although this extension is greater towards sectors without resources.

Between the two opposites are the social sectors called "media" which in Latin America tend to be relatively numerous within the major cities.

This dichotomy has its correlate in the personal decisions that each professional makes to put their knowledge at the service of a sector, according to their reality, their ideology, scale of values, etc. and it also has a correlation in the way in which architecture should be taught, and in the Institutional sphere when it comes to guiding fields of action, both for Private Institutions (Chambers, NGOs, Media, etc.) or Public Institutions (Faculties, Institutes of Housing, Development or Development Banks, etc.)

Ultimately, it is when the ethical-political variable intervenes and encourages the State to act in solidarity aid, when it comes to improving the "sustainability" of the social sectors with fewer economic resources, or establishing regulations or legislation that, although it will only reach a part of the population, they are essential when defining the course to take. From our discipline, and from the academy, we can influence this aspect, developing together with the target population, tools that allow them to demand the necessary decisions and actions from the competent bodies.

Under the great Umbrella of Sustainability we can all fit, but where we each place ourselves, how the teaching of Architecture is oriented, where the institutions are directed in their daily actions and what the role of the State should be to reduce the differences and encouraging positive actions, is what will end up defining a collective position on this issue, a position that will undoubtedly be subject to permanent debate.

Archives. Graciela Pedemonte and Eduardo Yarke - Sustainable Architecture - www.arqsustentable.net

(*) Dr. Humberto Tommasino: "Rural sustainability: disagreements and controversies" chapter V of "Sustainability? Disagreements about sustainable development" Foladori et al.


Video: Ken Yeang, Ecoarchitecture and Ecomasterplanning: The Work of Ken Yeang (May 2021).